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Milwaukee trusts, estates lawyer faces license suspension

A Milwaukee trusts and estates lawyer faces a two-year license suspension over eight counts of misconduct involving estate work he did in Dodge County.

According to an Office of Lawyer Regulation complaint filed June 29, heirs of a Dodge County estate hired Daniel Morse in 2013 to be their personal representative and attorney.

The OLR alleges that Morse failed to have the heirs sign a written fee agreement although it was reasonable to believe that the cost of representing the estate would exceed $1,000. Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules require written fee agreements if a lawyer foresees the cost of representation exceeding that amount.

Also, according to the OLR, Morse failed to advance the interests of the estate and to properly communicate with the heirs, who wrote him a letter in August 2014 expressing concern about a lack of communication and asking Morse to send them itemized billing statements for his services, accounting of expenditures made on behalf of the estate and the timing of the payment for some bills. The letter gave him 10 days to fulfill the request.

Morse sent an email to the heirs in early September saying he would reply to the letter that week but never did, according to the complaint.

The heirs then hired a new attorney in October 2014. That attorney tried to communicate with Morse from October to January, telling him he had been hired to replace Morse and asking Morse to give him the estate’s financial records. Morse, according to the OLR, did not respond.

About a month after the Dodge County probate court approved the new attorney’s substitution in November 2014, the new attorney received a package from Morse containing a $3,000 check drawn on the trust account for Morse’s law firm. He also received an unopened mail relating to the estate.

In February 2015, the new lawyer filed a motion in court demanding that Morse produce the financial records he requested. The motion included an affidavit showing that more than $26,000 from the estate was not accounted for.

At a March 2015 hearing, the court ordered Morse to pay the estate $26,037.19 by April 9, 2015, and to provide all the estate’s financial records to the new lawyer. Morse made the payment but never produced the financial records, according to the complaint.

The OLR also alleges that the new attorney eventually obtained the estate’s banking records without Morse’s help. Those records showed that Morse wrote checks and transferred more than $25,000 to himself or his law office. The records, according to the OLR, showed that payments made from the estate money included rent for Morse’s office space and Morse’s cable bill.

Morse, reached Wednesday, declined to comment. He is being represented by Jeremy Levinson.

The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Morse’s license for two years.

Morse has been admitted to practice in Wisconsin since 1979. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not previously disciplined him. His license is active and in good standing, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin and OLR websites. Morse also practices in Sarasota, Fla., where he was admitted to practice in 2013. He has not been disciplined in Florida.

Morse graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Pennsylvania.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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